The Emmaus men's soccer team returned home on Friday afternoon to take on the Thunder of Manhattan Christian College after shutting out the Barclay College Bears the previous day. The conditions were perfect, with cloud cover and temperatures in the upper 60s. The previous meeting between the two teams was at the Midwest Christian College Conference championship the previous season, where a slow start for the Eagles saw Manhattan come away with a resounding 5-1 victory. Emmaus was anxious to write a new story.
The match kicked off at 4:00 pm, and Emmaus applied high pressure from the start. The first 25 minutes of the half saw both teams battle it out in what would prove to be a very physical game, with Emmaus creating the more dangerous chances, but failing to convert. Finally, after several near misses, freshman forward Wakilongo Ebake (#17) created enough space to get off a shot, which beat the Thunder keeper to the low corner.
With a 1-0 lead, the Eagles continued to apply pressure, and were awarded one more time before the half on a corner kick. Senior Sammy Gitonga (#6) won a header in traffic, and Senior Neal Johnson (#4) got on the end of the rebound to put away his second set piece goal of the season. The 2-0 lead held until the half.
The second half saw both teams searching for opportunities, but the Emmaus defense held firm, providing excellent communication, pressure, cover, and balance. Witth roughly 23 minutes to play, the Eagles finally managed to add to their lead when junior Mason McCarl (#7) was fouled in the box. Senior captain Carson McBain (#11) stepped up and buried the penalty for the 3-0 lead. But they weren't done. In the 86th minute, freshman Sui Thang (#18) won a ball in the defense and played a perfect ball over the top to McCarl, who hit the ball off the bounce into the back of the net.
The 4-0 score-line held as Eagle keeper Gabriel Salinas recorded his second shutout in a row. The win was a historic one for the Eagles, who had failed on their previous seven attempts to defeat MCC. Friday night, the Eagles changed the narrative, taking the game to Manhattan and coming out winners.
"The Thunder are a storied program with a great coach in Rick Wright. Their players put up a good fight, and they have a lot of potential with such a young group. I have no doubt it will be a different game if we see them at the conference tournament as they know how to make adjustments. This was an exciting win today, but we can still learn a lot from the match. There is a lot of room to grow still, which is exciting. And the best part is that, despite a physical match, the guys are keeping their heads and desiring to grow beyond soccer. They are hungry for the right things. I love coaching them!" (Coach Brown)
Coach Block summarized the game by saying that, "the guys really worked hard today to make their teammates look good." This was a team win, with great defense, 4 different goal scorers, and a bench and fans that added energy to the atmosphere."
The Eagles are now 2-0 in MCCC Conference play, and will play two matches next week against non-conference opponents Finlandia University (Michigan) and Eureka College (Eureka, IL) on September 13th and 15th.